Apr 09 2009

Court Rules Against Hawaiian Land Rights

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stolen hawaiian lands

The US Supreme Court decided unanimously in late March that the State of Hawaii can sell 1.2 million acres of land seized illegally by the US, without having to resolve land claims by Native Hawaiians. The land claims at stake arise from the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, which led to the annexation 5 years later of the island by the US. In 1993 Congress apologized for the overthrow, leading Native Hawaiians to contend that that apology was tantamount to the “inherent sovereignty of the native Hawaiian people,” which in turn meant that the State of Hawaii could not sell the land to private developers. Last year the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in favor of the native claims in the case which is being referred to in the press as “State of Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, et al.” But the state attorney general appealed to the Federal Supreme Court saying it was a federal issue due to the invocation of Congress’s apology. The 9-0 Supreme Court decision and its accompanying opinion suggests that it is indeed a state issue. But some Native Hawaiians say that the terms of the case were problematic to begin with and that both the state of Hawaii and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs are eager to sell the lands.

GUEST: Kehaulani Kauanui is an Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University, producer and host of the public affairs radio program, “Indigenous Politics,” author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity

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